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Urban Design, Design Review, Design Standards and Guidelines

Illustration of a mixed use development

Zoning provides quantitative requirements to ensure proper placement, height, bulk and use of structures throughout the city. In designated design review districts throughout the city, development is also reviewed using discretionary design standards and guidelines to help ensure compatibility with a special context or to promote unique design objectives. 

Design standards and guidelines, and associated design review processes, may be recommended in a small area plan. They are frequently established through the general development plan process, context-specific zone districts, zoning overlays or adoption of new rules and regulations.  The Landmark Preservation design review process is established through the designation of a property as a historic landmark or as part of a historic district. Refer to the Development Services map to see what locations are included in a design review district.

Design Review Boards

In some design review districts, an appointed board conducts design review using adopted design standards and guidelines. In others, city staff conduct design review, or a community group conducts design review and makes recommendations to developers or city staff. Denver Community Planning and Development currently staffs the following design review boards:

Uses the Design Standards and Guidelines for Arapahoe Square (PDF) and the Design Standards and Guidelines for Central Platte Valley-Auraria (PDF) to review proposed development in the Arapahoe Square and CPV-Auraria District areas of downtown.

Uses the Design Standards and Guidelines for Cherry Creek North (PDF) to review proposed projects in Cherry Creek North. 

Uses the Denver Union Station Urban Design Standards and Guidelines (PDF) to review new construction on the station site, as well as exterior alternations to the historic station building and uses the Commons Urban Design Standards and Guidelines (PDF) to review proposed projects in the Commons area northwest of Union station. (Note: The Landmark Preservation Commission also conducts review at Union Station.) 

Uses the Design Standards and Guidelines for Denver Landmark Structures and Districts (PDF) to review and approve the designs of proposed exterior alterations, additions to buildings, new construction, signs, and non-vegetative site work for properties located within the boundaries of an historic district or for a designated a Denver landmark. 

Uses the Design Guidelines for the Lower Downtown Historic District (PDF) to review projects in the Lower Downtown Historic District, including alternations to structures that have architectural, historical, or geographical significance.

If you use assistive technology and would like to access the content in the PDF documents on this page, please contact planning@denvergov.org.